8 Ways to Manage Difficult Employees

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8 Ways to Manage Difficult Employees

Posted on June 12, 2018 by Ethan Chen

An important truth is that you will need to know how to manage difficult employees, at times, in order to succeed in your role as a leader or manager. Not everyone who works for you will be a model employee. An ability to stay calm when confronted with difficult employees who have a bad attitude is imperative in the modern workplace. However, handling challenging employees is easier said than done.

The following eight tips will guide you through some effective methods to managing problematic employees in a diplomatic and effective way.

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1. Keep Records

It is prudent to document situations in which difficult personnel cause issues. Managers should understand that some problem employees end up escalating their bad behavior to the point that they actively cause difficulty for those around them on a daily basis. Difficult workers can often be dealt with internally without being terminated from the company. However, it is always a good idea to have consistent documentation highlighting concrete examples of worsening behavior, should a point arrive at which termination cannot be avoided.

2. Never Ignore the Problem

It is okay if you do not enjoy confrontation, but it is never a good idea to ignore challenging people and hope that their behavior will magically change. By sweeping issues under the carpet, team management becomes more trying as negative attitudes and bad behavior begin to cause widespread issues, such as worsening productivity and low morale among all employees. When deciding how to manage difficult staff, the first thing to consider is taking some form of action, whether that means speaking to those involved or opting to document the issues they are causing.


3. Take Time to Listen

Not all problem employees require a strict disciplinarian approach to change how they approach work. A good manager must understand that listening is pivotal to effective communication with all team members, including those employees that come to work with a bad attitude or who consistently maintain subpar performance.

A common issue is that managers make assumptions about particular employees without really making the effort to listen to them and understand their perspectives. You might find that your difficult worker has developed an unhealthy attitude due to personal problems outside of work, for example. The mere act of listening to him or her discuss his or her situation often leads to a change in behavior or attitude.

The truth is that people just need to get things off their chest from time to time. Furthermore, your company might be able to offer resources to employees to help them with their individual difficulties. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offers free and confidential assessments and short-term counseling to employees experiencing personal problems.

4. Remain Professional

It is very easy to become emotionally invested in other people’s issues, but this is never a good idea. An extremely talented employee who works for you might be showing a poor attitude at work. It can be tempting to get involved too deeply because you know he or she is not living up to his or her potential, both as an employee and as a person.

While listening and advising your difficult employees on their attitude or behavior is fine, endeavor to maintain a strict professional distance from the underlying issues they might be experiencing. When you become personally involved, you are likely to make poor management decisions.

5. Provide Clear, Constructive Feedback

Eventually, you need to provide direct feedback to people if you want to learn how to manage difficult employees the best way. Before an issue gets out of hand, it is best to offer corrective feedback as early as possible. Letting negative attitudes permeate the workplace over the long-term eventually makes for a destructive environment.

The way you convey your feedback to problem employees can make all the difference in terms of receptiveness and willingness to change. Focus on concrete examples of employees displaying misconduct and de-personalize your feedback you give so that you are not blatantly dismissing their character. For example, don’t say, “You have a bad attitude.” Instead, you could say, “I overheard you saying some negative things about our company last week.”


6. Set Consistent Standards

It is important to set consistent standards for the attitudes and behaviors you expect from all employees. Good managers are not selective in terms of their standards. Different rules should not apply to different people. Problematic personnel often have a shorter fuse, which can tempt managers into being too lenient when appraising their work. Integrity is a huge part of effective team management. Setting standards you will adhere to, no matter the person or circumstance, will lead to increased employee morale and mutual respect.

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7. Spell Out the Consequences

Many difficult workers will never change their behavior if they think their actions will never lead to any actual consequences. When sitting down for a discussion with tricky employees, it is always a good idea to get specific about what will happen if they do not alter their behaviors.

8. Show Courage

Dismissing a person from their job is one of the hardest things you might have to do as a manager, but it’s important to show courage and act when the situation calls for it. An employee that shows no signs of improvement, despite several warnings, isn’t likely to change. Losing one employee is not the end of the world, particularly if that person doesn’t approach their work correctly. There is a huge pool of talent out there itching for a job.

By following these tips on how to manage difficult employees, you can improve your leadership skills and your ability to manage people in many different circumstances. Team communication issues can lead to negative employee behavior. You can avoid such matters by using the Crew app. Everyone can use Crew to remain on the same page. The app also offers problem employees a way to communicate with you when there is no time for a one-on-one discussion.

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